The Legacy of John W. Large

Barbara Lewis, Paul Mortenson


Since his untimely death in 1987, the work of John W. Large continues to be relevant to current voice research and pedagogy. He pushed for specificity in voice terminology. For instance, he drew the distinction between speech science register nomenclature (for example, pulse/fry, modal, loft, flute) and singing register nomenclature (for example, chest, middle, head). He also proposed the usage of isoparametric tones (different register tones compared on the same fundamental, phoneme/vowel, and dynamic level) in order to standardize voice research protocols.
A pedagogical descendant of Manuel Garcia II, one of the first voice scientist and teachers, Large researched aspects of all three components of the vocal instrument: the actuator (breath), the vibrator (vocal folds and laryngeal structure), and the resonators (the bucco-pharyngeal cavity and nasal cavities as well as the sinuses and other supra- and sub-glottal spaces including the pyriform sinuses). He investigated airflow rate (actuator) in the passaggio, the vocal fold wavelength configuration (vibrator), formants (emphases of the harmonic partials), and the sub-glottal and supra-glottal coupling of resonators. Large, who agreed with Garcias mechanical principle, thought that vocal fold wave configuration was a primary determinant of vocal register. However, like his bel canto colleagues, he recognized the importance of the vowel in phonation as well as its use in pedagogy. In summary, while Larges pedagogy was informed by science, it was also firmly rooted in the bel canto tradition.

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